Some early reflections on the journey

I am coming up on the one year anniversary of doing the Herstory of Hollywood podcast, and I am working on expressing what I have learned throughout this process.  It has already been such a journey and my thoughts are continually evolving around the topic of women in business, and in entertainment, and gender equality and inclusion in general. More to come on that soon...

In the meantime, I spoke with Ron Dawson of Radio Film School for his and Yolanda Cochran's series, Breaking the Glass, early on in this process.  I had a lot to say at the time, and this was early days.  I fear I'm only getting more lippy as time goes on.  See what I did there?  I self deprecated and apologized for my opinionated self - even in the midst of self promoting. There, I did it again.  See?  This stuff is deep.

Nevertheless, I persist, and I stand by the things I said here.  It was fun being on the other side of the interview, and what Yolanda put together in this episode is important. My favorite part is something Yolanda said.  Stop with the namby pamby programs. Ryan Murphy showed it can just be done.  No hand wringing necessary.

Here, have a listen:



I recently started asking women if they feel like an imposter, because so many have indicated they do when the recorder is off.  They say, “I can’t believe you wanted to interview me.” Or “Well, I’m certainly not going to be inspiring like so and so.”  And yet, I did, and yet, they are.

“The Imposter Syndrome is a concept describing high-achieving individuals who are marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a "fraud". Despite external evidence of their competence, those exhibiting the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be. Some studies suggest that impostor syndrome is particularly common among high-achieving women.” Wikipedia

So far, I am finding this to be at least somewhat true.  Not 100%, of course, but enough that it feels like a pattern to some extent.  I am interviewing one objectively amazing woman after another, and many of them are not only reluctant to own their own success, but they are surprised I even asked to interview them.

They often think the other women on the show are incredible, and are certain they do not belong in the same club.  However, to the next woman in line, they themselves are incredible. The hazard of interviewing amazing women is that subsequent amazing women may be intimidated.

Perhaps women are easily intimidated by other women.  Heck, I am intimidated by these women. They appear to completely have their act together. And they do. So smart, so thoughtful, so accomplished. But, what appears to be ease is sometimes actually a well-honed impeccability. There is data and anecdotal evidence that women have to be better, more competent, impeccable, to get ahead and to achieve success.  And these women have done very well.  Put another way, none of them have half-assed it to get where they are. They know it's hard, and yet on others, it looks easy.

What breaks down the perceptions immediately is intimate conversation.  Revealing themselves.  Finding common ground. Telling their stories.

Telling your story is powerful.  Powerful for the listener, and maybe even more importantly, for the storyteller. They sometimes feel naked afterward. Raw. Exposed. But, hopefully, they also feel seen. I am aware of the gift I have been given. Of the honor. I try to handle it with care.  Close the gaps before I leave.  Help them not go away feeling as vulnerable as they have become in the process.

There is a need to tell our stories, to be heard, to be recognized, to connect. To know you belong.  At the table.  In the room.  At the top. There are no imposters here.


20 Examples of Gender Bias in this Election

Although I am devastated with the election results, I am laughing a little bit at myself today.  I was so buoyant and hopeful of late about the state of women in the world, I was a little worried I had missed the curve with this podcast.  Like I was jumping in and telling women’s stories just as we were crossing over into a post gender discrimination world. Oh, how naïve I was yesterday.

I know it is not as simple as gender bias that elected Trump.  This election is layered and nuanced and there are several issues at play, that may or may not even be related to each other.  But, I do believe gender bias was in the mix.

Just on the face of it, several common experiences were on display.  Pretend these were two applicants for an entirely different job.

1.     A man with one or two (and I’m being generous) of the 10 requirements for the job, confidently put himself forward as if he was completely qualified, despite never working in a related field.

2.    A woman made sure she had all the qualifications and then some, in fact became the most qualified person to ever seek the job, before throwing her hat in the ring.

3.    They were treated as equally viable candidates.

4.    When interviewing for the job, the woman was constantly interrupted, condescended to, and mansplained by a man who could not hold a candle to her knowledge of the issues. And yet, she had to take him seriously as her competition for the job.

5.    She laid out detailed policy plans of how she would perform the job. He shouted that everything was a disaster and he was going to make it great. And we all pretended that was an exchange of equally substantive but different ideas.

6.    She had to worry about what she wore, her tone of voice, her makeup, hair, shoes, and her resting bitch face.

7.    He didn’t.

8.    She was penalized for her ambition.

9.    He wasn’t.

10.   Her temperament was questioned because she once had periods.

11.    His erratic temperament was on public display.

12.   His bombastic arrogance was mistaken for leadership/management skills.

13.   Her leadership/management skills were not enough, and in fact, were suspicious.

14.   She was described as being untrustworthy, a liar, while being repeatedly proven otherwise.

15.   He was perceived as telling it like it is, while being constantly proven a liar.

16.   She was penalized for staying with her husband, and blamed for his infidelities.

17.   His infidelities and multiple marriages were not relevant.

18.   Her background check revealed 30 years of investigations resulting in no criminal charges. She was labeled a criminal.

19.   His background check revealed hundreds of lawsuits, several bankruptcies, missing tax returns, questionable financial dealings, two pending criminal trial dates in the next two months, one of them for raping a 12-year-old girl.  His background check passed.

20.  She was gas-lighted.  He gas-lighted.

He got the job.

She had to be graceful about it, and will probably have to train him, while he expects her to get his coffee.

We still have work to do.  I will still do my little part here. 

I will soon launch a podcast adding the stories of women in tech. If you know some, send them my way.

From Pantsuit Nation,



Work Wife/House Wife. Is this the new Madonna/Whore?

I recently interviewed Jeffery Tobias Halter, a Gender Strategist who is making the business case for engaging and advancing women in today’s corporations. (Episode 13 – The Other 50%).  One particular statement he made has stayed with me for more than a week.  It was this: men compartmentalize so completely that they see the women at work as entirely different than the women at home.  As in, they are different categories of people. As if they don’t make the connection between advocating for the women they love – their daughters, wives, mothers – and advocating for the women at work. 

Now, if that's true, why is it?  I think it is deep. Deep. In the psyche. Let’s begin to unpack it.

There is the Man Code piece.  As Halter explained in his interview, men are brought up to fear and loathe anything feminine in a male – emotion, weakness, femininity.  The worst insult to hurl at a male is to call him a female insult – pussy, wuss, bitch, girl. So, if men compete at work, and women are seen as weak, or less than, why would you ever align with them?  Or how could you follow them? How could they take top spots in leadership?

Maybe there is a piece that involves attraction, and that is a slippery slope at the office.  You can’t put women in the same category as your wife – that is the road to personal and professional destruction.

There is also a piece that involves your role at home.  If you are the breadwinner and your wife’s main job is to take care of you and your family – serve everyone else, essentially – do you actually see her as your equal?  Do you really? Now take a moment here.  Do you really?

If your wife stays at home, and you think that is her right and proper place, how do you reconcile women who are at the office?  Are they a different kind of woman?  What if they are a mother?  What then? Do you have an unconscious bias about them?  Or about their husbands?  What if they don’t have a husband?  What then?

Something I find troubling is that the most common example of the most downtrodden hopeless figure in society is that of the single mother of three.  This is the person who can’t get it together, will never have enough money, is often working several subpar jobs, and is barely raising her poor, low-expectation children. Now, there is plenty of data to suggest that single women raising children are the most represented demographic in poverty. But, it is also not every single mother. (Silently raising my hand in the back row.) But, I know this perception, so I, as a single mother of three, keep my children very much on the down low and kick ass at my job so that people are actually surprised when they realize I have children.  I think it blows wide open their stereotypes.  But I digress.

In a survey done several years ago, participants were asked to rate women in business alongside men in business.  Business women were seen as equivalent to businessmen.  However, once a woman became a mother, they were rated slightly higher than the stupid. That is a gender bias that lives deep deep beneath the surface.

I suspect there is also a religious root to this.  As a Judeo/Christian culture, there is a prevailing bias that men are the head of the household, women are to be subservient to their husbands, and this is the natural order ordained by God.  That is hard to break up.

Or, is it that some men are so blind to gender differences, that they forget some women have a whole other job once they leave the office.  Despite the uptick of women in full time employment, the data shows that women still hold responsibility for 70% of the home and childcare duties. So, if your workplace’s path to success requires a person to be unfettered by household responsibilities, it is simply going to be harder for women to get to the top.  As one study bore out, a workplace designed for the worker to have a spouse at home taking care all of all household responsibilities, is in itself discriminatory.

Maybe it is simpler than that.  Maybe some men are just competitive in the workplace and they are just going to compete with whomever is there.  Is not about promoting or engaging anyone, it’s just about winning.  And if the deck is already stacked in their favor, why would they reach over and pull someone else up?  Does it even occur to them to do so?

And what is women’s piece in it? Women have internalized the patriarchy just as much as men have.  We sometimes see ourselves as the underdog.  Trying to get ahead, trying to prove something. Coming from a place of having to earn respect, rather than having it granted because we showed up with a penis.  That is a distinct disadvantage.  And it is a rare woman who can stand up with full confidence in the face of patriarchy and declare I am here, I am worthy, and I have as much right as you to speak, be heard, and contribute.  We are much more apologetic, as evidenced by the way we communicate – sorry, do you have a minute? Sorry, I was just thinking, maybe, I don’t know of course, but what if…..?

So, what is to be done?  Well, since men still own the majority of the power, it will take their involvement to share the wealth. Jeffery puts forth the argument that it is men’s responsibility to advocate on behalf of women because of their daughters, their wives, their mothers.  If they want their daughters to reach their full potential, they have to start clearing the path.  Yes, I agree.  And men have had daughters since the beginning of time.  So what is different now?

I would take it a step further.  What if we start seeing women as full humans first, rather than in the context of their relationship to men?  As Caitlin Moran points out time and time again in her brilliant book How to be a Woman, to find out if something is sexist, ask this question….does the same apply for men? Do we look at men in business as their relationships to women first and foremost?  Daniel is a husband, father, son and a very keen executive!  That sounds absurd.  And yet, we talk about advocating for women because they are someone’s daughter, or someone’s wife.  What if we were to advocate for women because they are fully formed humans with intelligence and gifts to bring to an organization.  Does that sound radical?  As long as that is a radical thought, let’s keep saying it until it becomes ridiculous.

Further, the data shows that when there are enough women in leadership who feel comfortable being wholly themselves, it affects the profitability of the company significantly.  For the better.  Is that not reason enough?

What do you think? Do men see women at home as different creatures from the women at work?  And what does that even mean?



When a man talks about women...

I was so thrilled when I was invited to be interviewed for Ron Dawson's Radio Film School podcast mini-series called Breaking the Glass.  I usually ask the questions, and to be honest, I was excited to share some of the insights I have learned from doing The Other 50% interviews. We talked about how it lands for a man to be hosting a podcast about gender equality, and we found many correlations between talking about gender and talking about race. 

Here, have a listen...